Interview with Jamie Lau Designs

Ladies, meet Jamie Lau. I want basically anything that she designs. Her dresses are a happy combination of 60s inspiration and Japanese aesthetics. Bright and feminine, flattering and comfortable. This sunny sheath is the first dress of hers that caught my eye:

Jamie Lau - Sunny Disposition Sheath Photo by Sarah Deragon

Jamie left a job in the public policy world to follow her passion for fashion design. She started all over again as a creative and editorial intern. Fast forward a few years and she has a gorgeous collection under her belt, she’s the author of BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, and she’s teaching several sewing and pattern making classes. She took a big chance, and we are so happy she did. We talked to Jamie about her professional transition, her inspiration, and sour cherry pie.

Jamie at her studio Photo by Liz Clayman

When was Jamie Lau Designs officially launched?
I started off by making reversible tote bags and other small sewn accessories in 2008. In 2010, I ventured into garment construction, pattern making, and draping to pursue my true passion – designing dresses!

How was the transition from the public policy world to fashion? What made you take the leap?
It all began with a basic sewing class I took in 2007. Prior to that, I had never sewn before. Once I got the hang of it, it was really fun mixing prints and colorful textiles together. I started to amass a collection of beautiful fabrics from local fabric stores as well as from my travels. I had always loved fashion from a young age, and one of the main motivators for me to get better at sewing and to perfect my craft was so I could cut into all this lovely fabric with confidence (Japanese brocades, Italian woolens, and more). I wanted to design tasteful clothing that fit well and translate my aesthetic into wearable garments made with quality craftsmanship.

While still working full-time, I enrolled in a mix of construction, pattern making, draping, and textiles classes at a variety of schools, crafting my own curriculum. I even signed up for classes when I traveled. I eventually left my day job and “started all over again” as a creative and editorial intern for some hands-on experience. I quickly realized that a lot of my prior work experience would prove beneficial in this transition. I was accustomed to being analytical, precise, and detail-oriented (great for pattern making, sewing, and writing tutorials). I was organized and knew how to manage budgets and negotiate contracts (great for business and project management). And, I was experienced with troubleshooting difficult situations while being solution-focused and working with limited resources (helpful all around). Eventually, I ventured off on my own and wrote a fashion sewing and pattern making book along the way.

Jamie Lau Designs Textured Colorblock A-Line Shift Dress Photo by Liz Clayman

Your dresses are stylish yet comfortable. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am very much influenced by Japanese aesthetics. Even back when I was making reversible tote bags, I was always drawn to Japanese textiles and prints. Oftentimes, I would pick up a bolt of solid or minimally printed fabric without even looking at the selvage or tag – and of course, it would say “Made in Japan,” so it’s definitely an innate aesthetic preference. In general, I very much respect the craftsmanship of Japanese design and appreciate minimal silhouettes that are easy to wear.

I have also always been inspired by 1960s silhouettes, particularly the geometry and bold use of color in the works of André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin. I also love the work of photographer William Eggleston, finding inspiration in his use of rich and saturated colors.

What’s your favorite dress?
Tough choice! Right now, I think it’s a tie between my classic Yabane Gathered-Waist Dress and one of my newer designs, the Kyoto Garden Dress. Both are flattering fit and flare silhouettes made in Japanese fabric with practical in-seam pockets. They work great as all-year round wardrobe pieces and for all body types!

What are your plans for the next few months?
In addition to designing, I also guest blog for sites including Britex Fabrics and Spoonflower and teach sewing, draping, and pattern making classes at the Textile Arts Center and across the country. But mainly, I will be busy working on my original textile designs for some new dresses and tops. This fall, I chronicled my process from start to finish as a guest blogger for Spoonflower – starting with my inspirations then moving on to creating my textile design and sewing up a finished garment. I made an A-line style shift dress cut on the bias to play with the rough lines and gradients of my textile design. I wanted the print to have the illusion of “wrapping” around the body and had my design printed on linen-cotton canvas to give the dress texture and an element of structure for a stronger silhouette. This dress, along with a few other designs featuring my original prints, will be available in my web store later this year.

[here’s a preview for you!]
Jamie Lau Gradient A-line Dress

What neighborhood are you in? What are some of your favorite spots?
My design studio is located in Greenpoint. One of my favorite spots in the neighborhood is The Blue Stove – I can’t help but indulge in a mini pie (sour cherry is at the top of my list). For that other kind of pie, I go to Paulie Gee’s for the Hellboy pizza topped with sopressata and Mike’s Hot Honey.

Check out Jamie Lau Designs gorgeous dresses. Just a warning – like me, you may want them all.